Georgia jobless rate improves

COLUMBUS (MCT) -- A surge in new jobs, combined with steadily slowing layoffs, added up to an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent in Georgia in March.

That's down from 8.6 percent in February and from 9.1 percent in March a year ago, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

"Georgia employers created 23,700 jobs last month, which is one of the best job growth numbers we've had in March for almost a decade," Mark Butler, Georgia's labor commissioner, said in a statement. "The growth was in several industries, led by leisure and hospitality and professional and business services."

The March jobless rate is the lowest in the state since December 2008, about a year into the Great Recession, when things would only get worse.

The department noted that Georgia has generated 75,500 jobs over the past year, with gains coming in most sectors -- professional and business services, trade, transportation, warehousing, manufacturing, information services, financial services and construction.

Statewide, there were just under 37,000 first-time assistance claims filed in March. That's nearly 5,700 fewer than the same month a year ago.